The Hungry and Overweight Paradox

Reviewed by Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN
Hungry and Overweight Paradox


The reality is that hunger and being overweight are linked and it affects millions of children and adults, and this paradox threatens the health of our nation's children.

In the United States, one in eight American households are food insecure, including 13 million children. "The consequences of food insecurity are profound. Children who don't have access to enough nutritious food are more likely to experience difficulty learning, behavioral issues, anxiety, and higher rates of obesity," says Lauri Wright, PhD, RDN, LD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Adults who don’t have access to enough nutritious food are more likely to experience mental health issues, obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes."

Poverty and unemployment are key drivers that have led to food insecurity in America. African Americans, Latinos, children, older adults and people residing in rural areas are at increased risk for food insecurity.

More than 42 million Americans are food insecure. As a result of these driving forces, individuals often choose less expensive, calorie-dense food. This can lead to overweight children who lack the healthy, nutrient-rich food their bodies need.

"Overweight does not mean well-nourished," says Wright. "For example, low-income families may purchase soda, which may cost $1 for two liters, rather than milk, which may cost $4 for a gallon."

"The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is positioned to be a critical part of the solution due to the expertise of its members," says Wright. "Registered dietitian nutritionists are able to design evidence-based interventions to treat and prevent obesity and obesity-related diseases." The Academy and its members are actively advocating for policies supporting food assistance programs.

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